Local leaders continue efforts to reverse proposed Highway 99 funding cuts

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The fight to restore funding to widen Highway 99 gained some momentum on Friday. The effort comes after Caltrans recently proposed to delay and possibly cancel projects along the Central Valley's most traveled thoroughfare in Madera and Tulare counties.

According to a proposal from the state's transportation department, Governor Gavin Newsom could re-direct money scheduled to be used for the highway projects and use it on rail projects instead.

"Governor Newsom has said in Fresno last week, 'I care deeply about this damn Valley.' He also said, 'Highway 99 is an important priority for our administration'," said Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R) Fresno.

Patterson says the Governor needs to follow through on his promise of keeping the Highway safe by committing to fund the Valley projects.

The state is saving $9 million on the Madera County project and another $8 million more by deleting a Tulare County project from this year's plans.

In the past, Caltrans has said that they could resume these projects next year but admitted that's no guarantee.

"What they're proposing to delete is a significant widening to three lanes north and three lanes south in Tulare County and Madera County," Patterson said. "It finishes up significant bottlenecks that 99 has had over the years."

Both counties have already put up millions of dollars in matching funds as well as millions on environmental studies.

Officials say they feel like they've had the rug pulled out from under them.

"We need to have a firm commitment that's in writing that we can say this is where the dollars are going towards," said Tulare County Supervisor, Kuyler Crocker. "Not only that, we need to have a plan that talks about how we're going to get the construction of 99 to six lanes throughout the region and how we're going to achieve that."

Caltrans will present an updated plan next month with a decision coming in March.

Assemblyman Patterson said he was very encouraged after Friday's hearing.
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